American cartoonist Jim Morin explains why George W Bush invaded Iraq

It would be fair to say that Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Jim Morin was not former President George W Bush’s biggest fan – and even now he remains puzzled as to why the United States entered Iraq in 2003.

“I don’t think he knew why we were there,” Morin said, reflecting on the conflict nearly two decades after it began.

“In terms of human lives lost, it certainly wasn’t worth it.”

The 69-year-old cartoonist’s apprehensions about the war and the former president are hardly a secret: Mr. Morin is the artist behind Ambushera moving chronicle of the Bush years with political scientist Walter Clemens.

He pulled a few punches as he cast a skeptical eye on the administration’s record in the Middle East and at home.

The cartoons are scathing: One compares the Bush Cabinet to the Keystone Cops – fictional, humorously incompetent police officers – and another depicts an unhappy president descending a waterfall in the chaotic war in Iraq.

“My opinion is that he did not expect to be elected and he went to see his father [former president George H W Bush] and asked “What am I doing?” Mr. Morin says The National.

“And George Sr says, ‘Dick Cheney is going to help you,'” referring to the elder Vice President Bush.

There were many people in George W Bush’s administration who were part of his father’s circle, he added, and it took time for the former president to “find himself”.

“That’s when I really respected him and found things I liked about him, but it was too late,” says Morin.

Now living in the state of Maine, Mr. Morin retired from political cartooning, ending an award-winning career that spanned more than four decades.

He spoke to The National at the Ogunquit Museum of American Art in southern Maine, a seaside town and famous colony of artists for more than a century.


Mr. Morin, who lived under eight American presidents, used his pen to observe, comment on and often ridicule America’s political elite for decades. His fascination with comics dates back to his teenage years.

“I was in comics and in painting when I was a child,” says Mr. Morin.

French artist Honoré-Victorin Daumier “was my first hero and he still is. He’s just a wonderful, wonderful draftsman.”

He fondly remembers discovering the work of designers such as Herbert Lawrence Block and Tony Auth, who drew for The Philadelphia Investigator, both of which served as his major inspiration to enter the anime world.

The Watergate scandal in the early 1970s – which revealed former Republican President Richard Nixon was linked to an attempted theft of information from Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington – led to “a resurgence in the form of ‘art’ because of all the ‘great characters’. involved, he says, and piqued his interest even more.

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Mr. Morin’s first break came while studying at Syracuse University, where a friend asked him if he would like to draw for the college newspaper.

“It started with one cartoon a week, then two, then three, then four,” he says.

“I just dropped out of college and just started drawing five cartoons a week to The daily orange. It was an invaluable experience and essential to finding me a job after leaving university. »

His time at college provided him with a daily body of work that he showed to The Beaumont Company, a Texas-based newspaper with a circulation of 60,000. It wasn’t much, he said, but it was a start.

“As soon as I got there, I started sending my work to Time, Newsweek, and US News and World Report.”

Of Beaumonthe went to The Richmond Investigator in Virginia then The Miami Herald in 1978, where he remained until his retirement in 2020.

“You think you’re going crazy”

Producing a daily cartoon was initially a challenge.

“You’re just starting out, it’s really a chore and you think you’re going to go crazy,” says Morin.

“You worry about not having an idea and you worry about the drawing being terrible and all that.”

Gradually, rather than worrying about meeting a deadline, Mr. Morin learned to relax, to keep an eye on the news. Eventually, cartoon ideas started coming to him in droves.

“Once I knew what I wanted to say, the idea for the cartoon came up.”

The popularity of Mr. Morin’s cartoons was such that he was asked to make animated versions of them.

Not only did he draw the images, he also did the voices – using technical magic to produce amazingly accurate impersonations.

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“My view was that you could draw Trump cartoons five days a week,” he says.

“People wanted relief, but he was so dangerous, you couldn’t not focus on him.

To draw conclusions

Retirement, which allowed Mr. Morin to devote more time to painting, led him to consume the news out of interest rather than professional obligation.

“I specifically keep up to date on global warming and its effects. It is impossible to ignore it.

So, after 40 years in the business, what is the influence of designers?

Mr. Morin laughs at the question: “George Bush was re-elected – that’s how my cartoons are.

He says the level of influence of cartoons is not enough to “convert” people.

“I’ve met a few people who have been, but I don’t expect it,” he says.

Yet Mr. Morin and other cartoonists play an important role in helping people “clarify” their opinions.

“Some people have a feeling about something and they see a cartoon that clarifies their point of view,” he says. “That’s what my audience members told me.

“What I think is they just couldn’t verbalize it and the image crystallizes that feeling for them.”

Updated: June 24, 2022, 6:00 p.m.

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